Serial mediums, as most of us know, are very rewarding once you get into them – but getting into them can be a tricky thing. I refer specifically, in this case, to comics, which, as anyone will tell you, are having more and more trouble these days drawing in the casual fan.
This is where the animated TV show comes in. Few mediums in existence have proved themselves quite so complimentary as comics and cartoons, the partnership offering A: a way to introduce a complex mythos to comics newbies in a somewhat less challenging manner, doled out on a weekly basis; B: a way to present characters in an art style somewhat resembling their original conception, and C: a cross-pollination marketing bonanza. Comics plus cartoons equals spin-off cartoon-based comics, which in turn equals greater readership for the original! Good show all round.
So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Comics That Would Make Good Animated Shows.
As always, these are in no particular order, and comics that have already been adapted into the format are eliminated from the running.
What it is: At some point in the future, the Great Disaster occurs. Its precise nature is unknown, although it “has something to do with radiation” (although it is not a nuclear war; that much is known). Whatever it is, it warps the face of the planet and wipes out all but a fraction of the human population – and those that remain become stunted and savage, their intellect dropping and their civilization forgotten. In their place rises a civilization of animals, evolved through unknown means into intelligent forms, battling for territory and using humans as pets and pack animals.
Not all of humanity’s glory days have vanished, however. Just before the Disaster occurred, a small group of survivors sequestered themselves in an isolated bunker, prepared to ride out the apocalypse and re-establish civilization. Time and limited resources took their toll, however, and now they have all died – except for one, a boy in his mid-teens who had spent the last few years caring for his ailing grandfather, the only family he had left. Now that his ancient relative has passed on, he sees no reason to remain there, and, braving the dangers of this unknown new world, he sets forth to discover what he may.
And dangers, indeed, there are, more than he had ever imagined. Fortunately for him, he is not alone – he finds allies in the mysterious human Ben Boxer, the brave Tuftan, Prince of the Tigers, and the canine genius Dr. Canus, among others. Yet the world is still vast and unknowable, warped and twisted from what it once was, and exploring it is the endless mission of he who takes his name from that of his former home, ‘Command D’ – Kamandi – the Last Boy on Earth!
Why it’s cool: Honestly, this should speak for itself.
Can you imagine a better set-up for an episodic cartoon? You would never once have to explain why the main character was in a different place – in other words, you could put him into any kind of crazy situation that was plausible within the setting, and it would work fine, due to Kamandi’s basic nature – he’s a wanderer, an adventurer, an explorer. From a writer’s perspective, it would be great; you could keep him in one setting for as long as it’s convenient (one episode, three, four) and then move him somewhere else at your whim. Why was he there and now here? Because that’s what he does, and that, if the show proved popular, is what he could keep doing for years, with no end in sight until you decided to create one. It’s a toybox of endless possibilities.
None of which, of course, would be worth a red cent if the set-up and characters were boring or uninteresting. Thankfully, this is not the case – the world of the Great Disaster is populated by all sorts of bizarre stuff straight from Jack Kirby’s fertile brain. This is a place where everything is possible, from humanoid talking animals to giant monsters to aliens to robots to just about anything else. Those who populate it are pretty far out there, too – mainly stock types, mind you; the stalwart young hero (Kamandi himself, of course), the mysterious ally, the dashing prince, the two-fisted scientist – but all so varied and interesting that you want to see more of ‘em, and find out just what new wonders and terrors this bizarre wasteland of a future can throw their way.
True, it did start off as something of a Planet of the Apes knockoff (PotA was big back then), and it retained a bit of that flavor throughout – but so what? It’s cool! Give us Kamandi, dammit!
What it is: If ever the phrase ‘woman of mystery’ proved absolutely accurate, it would be in the case of the masked heroine known as the Black Orchid. Who is she? What is she? Why does she do the things she does?
We do not know. What we do know is that she possesses the powers of flight, strength and invulnerability, and is a mistress of disguise. Criminals everywhere grow pale at her name, for they know that anyone could be the Black Orchid – and that someday they, too, might find themselves receiving one of her trademark flowers…
Why it’s cool: Transparency demands a confession here – I’m talking about a certain past version of the character, not the current one. The Black Orchid has changed quite a bit over the years, and so has her nature. Following a miniseries by Neil Gaiman, she was revealed to be some sort of plant/human hybrid a’la Swamp Thing – that version of the character is dead now, and the current one is some sort of shapeshifter (in an effort to explain her mastery of disguise).
I’m not talking about any of those. (The Gaiman version is supposed to be kind of interesting, but I haven’t read it, so I won’t comment.) I’m talking about the original, Silver Age version of the Orchid, the one where nobody knew who the hell she was, including the reader and, apparently, the writers. And it didn’t matter, ‘cause she was awesome!
Why? Simple – the fact that nobody knew her identity was exploited in ways that the concept seldom is in comics. Sure, almost every superhero has a secret identity, but it doesn’t generally affect what the hero does all that much; if he/she had no secret identity, he’d/she’d still operate the same basic way – wade into battle, take the crooks to jail. This is basic superhero operations 101, right?
Well, the Orchid must not have taken that class, since she has a far stealthier way of doing things. You see, she’s not just a mistress of disguise, she’s a mistress of infiltration, and in every one of her original appearances, that was what she did – infiltrate. After an initial sort of ‘peek-a-boo!’ to let us know who was the hero here, she would drop out of sight, and the rest of the story would play out amongst other people, one of whom would eventually be revealed as her in disguise. Most of the time it was a bad guy, every now and then it was a good guy – either way, you were kept guessing right up ‘til the end, after the Orchid had shown up again to beat the crooks and her discarded disguise – male or female; she was that good – was discovered. (Oh yes – and she’s also got one of the most beautifully-designed costumes I’ve ever seen on a female comic book character. It’s sexy, it’s feminine, it’s exotic, it’s visually interesting, it’s just freakin’ gorgeous.)
Now picture this as a cartoon, a good one along the lines of B:tAS. Wouldn’t it be awesome? Every episode could take place in a different location, with a supporting character being an FBI agent assigned to follow this mysterious vigilante and either get her to join the Bureau or bring her in. And the story would never be shown from her POV except when she was actually in costume doing her thing – the rest of the time we’d be seeing things through the eyes of other people, many of whom would be liberally-scattered red herrings trying to make us wonder if they could really be the Orchid. We’d feel the bad guys sweat as they tried to figure out what was going on; we’d see the cops struggling to stay abreast of the situation, we’d see it from everybody’s POV, because any one of them could turn out to be the Orchid – and we’d only find out which one actually was at the end of that installment. A good writer could have huge amounts of fun with that.
Not, mind you, that I’m thinking of abandoning the whole ‘plant-woman’ aspect entirely. This could be part of a continuing storyline, where her background would be revealed to the viewer bit by tantalizing bit. Her HQ could be a greenhouse in an unknown location, filled with her trademark flowers, and every now and then we could cut to her there, working on her latest disguise or trying to puzzle out some villain’s scheme. Periodically, we would get a hint of her true nature – she could get cut in a fight and sap would come out, for instance, or some unusual stress would cause her to sprout flowers or some such. Eventually we would find out something close to the truth, but the entirety of it would remain maddeningly out of reach for as long as the show stayed on the air. Who is the Black Orchid? Who – and what – is she? Tune in next time to maybe kinda-sorta find out!
Does this not sound awesome? It could be like a high-concept sci-fi drama with a liberal mix of superhero action and crime show. Picture the X-Files if Mulder and Scully were after a heroic version of Poison Ivy and you’d get something close to what I’m talking about. And her very obscurity would work in her favor, because the viewers wouldn’t know who she was, either.
I tell you, this could not only work, it could be fascinating. It could stretch the boundaries of what western animation can get away with, and usher in a whole new, more sophisticated audience for them. Mystery, action, science fiction, visual flair, superheroics – this puppy would have everything! There is enormous potential here, and why in the world no one has realized it yet is beyond me.
What it is: When the mystically-charged trio of martial artists the Sons of the Tiger decided to go their separate ways, they hurled the amulets that gave them their powers into a nearby garbage can. Fate had other plans, though, as they were discovered lying there by one Hector Ayala, college student. Donning all three, he found that they gave him the ability to transform at will into a white-garbed, masked alter ego, in which he possessed heightened strength and the formidable skills of a martial arts master. Drawn into battle with local street gangs, Ayala became a fighter for justice – the White Tiger!
Why it’s cool: OK, like the last one, the White Tiger has had a rather complicated lineage over the years, but it should be pretty clear which one I’m referring to here – the original, the first guy to wear the amulets. In recent years it’s been mainly women who have claimed the name, and while I have no problem with that, the original is the one I know best, so I’m sticking with him.
Now, one could argue that a character intrinsically linked to a team of considerably more obscure ones would be a tricky thing to translate to TV, but it doesn’t really matter. So far as I know, Ayala never had much in the way of contact with the Sons; he just wore their amulets and they gave him powers. So really, there’s no reason for them to be in the picture at all; you just have to retcon in some alternate origin for the amulets – a fortune-teller tossed them out the window, I don’t know – and have them available for our boy Hector to find and put on. That’s all you need – and really, that’s plenty. In fact, it’s already been proven it’s plenty.
What do I mean? Hark, listen and learn! On the currently running show Ultimate Spider-Man, a female version of White Tiger is a supporting cast member. Where did she get the amulets from? She got ‘em from her father, the original Tiger. Where did he get ‘em from? Wouldn’t it be cool to find out?
See, right there – right there – on an already-existing show is the hook for a Hector Ayala White Tiger series. The character is already out there, his legacy has already been established – all you need now is him. It’s even been established that it should be set far enough in the past that he could plausibly have a teenage daughter in the present, which would be perfect, incorporating the character’s gritty, urban kung-fu comic origins.
Picture this – the White Tiger, a lone figure of justice in a pre-modern… hmm… well, the comics had him in New York; my version would be in San Francisco. It’s where the Sons were initially based, and I’m sick and tired of everything being in New York. A pre-modern San Francisco, back before US cities had been gentrified and slicked-up, back sometime in the ‘70’s or ‘80’s when ‘the mean streets’ were an actual thing. (I’m not saying it would have to be literally set then, just implicitly in terms of the look and feel.) One superpowered martial arts butt-kicker, taking on hordes of evil gang members, sinister villains and the like – and meanwhile trying to juggle this with being a college student and the wear and tear this is putting on his personal life. What’s more, Ayala is Hispanic, of Puerto Rican descent – we’ve had a fair amount of Mexican-American heroes on TV in recent years (including the most recent Blue Beetle), but a Puerto Rican one? Not to my… oh wait; we’ve got his daughter, OK. Still, we haven’t had a Puerto Rican main character on TV that I’m aware of – that would lend things an interestingly eclectic atmosphere on top of everything else.
I dunno – I think this would be cool. You’ve got your martial-arts, your inner-city grit, your mysticism in the form of the amulets, your superheroics – heck, it’d be awesome! Who’s with me?
What it is: There came a time, the late 1940s to be exact, when enough was enough. The superhero population had reached a crisis point. Not to mention villains, sidekicks, super-powered pets, etc., etc. – there were just too many of them. Something had to be done. So something was: they got their own city.
Decades later, the city of Neopolis is a shining, futuristic marvel. Designed by imprisoned Nazi mad scientists, it is a multi-tiered, bustling metropolis, populated entirely by super-folk. Along its roadways, sleek personalized vehicles of various sorts drive, while the skies above are thick with flying folks of every description. And at the airport, one may not only board a plane but step through a dimensional portal to one of many other worlds.
Clearly this is a city of wonders, but it is still a city, and every city has its criminals. Hence, we have the Tenth Precinct, Neopolis’ official police force. Together, they must police a population comprised of superpowered titans of every description, along with robots, mutants, androids, monsters, cyborgs, aliens, magical beings, the occasional visiting god – and, on at least one memorable occasion, Santa Claus. It’s all in a day’s work for the cops of the Tenth Precinct, known informally as Top Ten!
Why it’s cool: Surely I don’t actually have to explain my reasoning on this one, do I? Oh, all right.
Top Ten is one of the most gloriously insane ideas in all of comics. As sprung from the fertile brain of Alan Moore, it is a celebration of superheroes in all their gaudy, overcomplicated, multi-faceted glory, along with science fiction in general and (of course) cop shows. If nothing else, it’s an amazing homage to all three.
Much as I’d love to see a Top Ten movie, the only way I can really see it working is either as the comic it is, or as an animated TV show, given that it’s intentionally structured as a complex continuing narrative with lots of different plot threads and loads of different (and difficult to realize in live action) characters to follow. You’ve got Kemlo “Hyperdog” Caesar, who is literally a Doberman Pinscher in a metal exoskeleton. You’ve got Jeff Smax, the powerhouse of the precinct, a surly, eight-foot-tall blue giant who shoots power bursts from his chest. You’ve got the Wolfspider, a legless guy in a prosthetic spider-mecha; you’ve got Jackie Phantom, a transparent woman who can phase through things, you’ve got Micro-Maid, the shrinking pathologist, you’ve got – oh, there’s no end to them. Some are just your basic human beings, of course, but enough aren’t that animation is basically the only way to go here.
Story-wise, what I would do is keep Moore’s original plots for the framework of the series, but expand them a bit. In other words, take what in the comic is happening in a relatively short timeframe, and expand it to cover a season, with specifically adapted parts alternating with little hints and reminders of what’s going on. In between, there’s plenty of room for stand-alone episodes focusing on original stories and featuring ancillary members of the cast – and given the size of said cast, such would be welcome.
Overall, this would be great for superhero buffs and police procedural fans alike, along with everyone who appreciates a unique concept carried out well with plenty of visual flair and a bit more of an ‘adult’ sensibility than some cartoons (you would ruin Top Ten if you tried to kiddify it). If nothing else, we might finally get a superhero show that mainstream critical-type persons would enjoy. A little respect from the muggles never hurts. Put this sucker on!
What it is: The teenage Hall brothers were always arguing. Hank was a hothead of pugnacious temperament, ever ready to let his fists speak for him in the service of what he thought was right. Don, in contrast, was a quieter, gentler soul, always preferring to try to work for mutual compromise and the avoidance of conflict. While both possessed a deeply-ingrained sense of justice, Hank saw Don as a wimp, while Don saw Hank as a thug. The two positions, it seemed, could not be reconciled.
That all changed the night mysterious voices were heard, voices offering the brothers a chance to embody their respective philosophies and prove them valid. In the presence of danger, they would be granted great powers – all they needed to do was say one word, ‘Hawk’ for Hank, ‘Dove’ for Don.
It was later discovered that the voices belonged to cosmic representatives of the forces of Order and Chaos, forces at war since the dawn of time. Seeking to prove that the two can coexist, they chose two champions to fight side by side. Now, whenever they are needed, chaos and order, war and peace, are ready to save the day as Hawk and Dove!
Why they’re cool: In sharp contrast to the last entry, here is a comic that should be a (more or less) all-ages cartoon – and a really, really good one, too.
Why? How so? Simple – it directly tackles the issue of violence.
Violence is a big deal when you’re a kid. It generally comes up when talking about bullies, but there are other forms of it – how far to go when you’re tussling with your friends on the playground, just where does ‘pretend’ violence stop and the real stuff begins, etc., etc. And that’s the mild stuff – I’m sure I don’t have to remind any of you of the horrific results of what happens when school violence goes too far, gang warfare in urban areas, etc.
The problem with bringing up this sort of subject on kids’ shows is that it generally translates to one of two things: one, a preachy after-school special sort of thing, or two, standard fantasy beat ‘em ups. Now, obviously I’m fine with the latter; after all, that’s a lot of what superheroes are, right? Still, it seems like a shame that there’s no way to bridge the gap and examine a subject that could genuinely benefit from being examined.
A Hawk and Dove show could be a very good way to build that bridge. Consider – here we have a duo whose very nature is based around the subject of violence VS nonviolence, and yet, what are they? They’re superheroes, and superheroes fight people. Superheroes fighting people is A: fun and interesting, and B: a perfect launching point for an examination of the subject that neither preaches nor panders.
Consider this – Hawk and Dove are in high school. (At least, they are in the initial version of the characters, which is what I’m going with here.) Every superheroes-in-high-school series ever made has a ‘pool’ of standard plots that it dips into, and most of these are tailor-made for what we’re talking about. Big game coming up? Violence. Bullies picking on someone? Violence. A supervillain materializes amongst the heroes’ classmates and they have to fight him, probably through the school itself? Violence, violence, violence!
Mind you, I’m not talking about bringing up the subject in a ‘now kids, what did we learn today’ sort of fashion; I’m thinking more along the lines of an overarching theme. Every time Hank and Don face a challenge, they must choose which of their two choices is appropriate. Unless things go disastrously wrong as a result, there’s no need to focus overmuch on what the choices actually are, but just showing whether or not they work is unspoken commentary on its own. Every time Hawk triumphs, it’s implied that his way of doing things was right; every time he fails, then perhaps he should have listened to Dove. Just establishing what their natures are and what they represent adds so much implicit subtext that you don’t need to point it out; it does so itself.
As for the inevitable problem of how to depict a pacifist superhero, that’s not really a problem at all. Superheroes don’t just fight people, they also rescue them – the latter could be Dove’s focus, the former Hawk’s. And when Don does get into a fight, he just needs a very different style than his brother: while Hank is into aggressive beatdowns, Don prefers judo-style redirection of force. He won’t start a fight (unless he has to), but he’ll finish it.
Overall, this would make A: a kickass superhero series, and B: a subliminal examination of a subject that needs to be examined, and that a lot of the target audience could stand to think about. I dunno – could do worse, yes?
What it is: A long time ago, the Martians invaded, and were quickly defeated by the one enemy they hadn’t predicted: germs. But Mars had not given up, and one day in the near future, it tries again. This time, its soldiers have inoculated themselves, and have come loaded for bear – throwing every weapon we have against them only makes things worse for us.
Cut to decades later, where the Martians rule supreme over a broken and shattered Earth. The North American continent has been transformed into a barren, mutant-ridden wasteland, with the remnants of its population either given over to savagery or enslaved by their Martian overlords for the purpose of cruel amusement or processing as foodstuffs.
One of the former is Jonathan Raven. Trained as a fighter for the gladiatorial ring, he was experimented on by his keepers, resulting in formidable mental abilities that gave him a vital advantage over the alien invaders, and ultimately allowed him to escape. Attracting a band of outcasts to him as he travels, he now searches for a safe haven where he and his followers may live unmolested and launch rebellion, under the name the Martians gave him – Killraven!
Why it’s cool: Admittedly, to some people’s minds this might qualify as cheating. After all, I already brought up Killraven in my Top Ten Crossover Movies That Will Never Happen (But Should) article – and I try not to repeat myself. But as far as I’m concerned, this isn’t repeating myself – that was about the character’s crossover potential. This is about how cool he’d be in a cartoon.
Now, the basic elements of why he’d work as a cartoon have already been covered in the Kamandi entry – most of what applies to that one applies to this also. You’ve got yer roaming heroes traversing a post-apocalyptic landscape of ravaged ruins; you’ve got a set-up that lets the writers keep them in one place for as much or as little time as they want, etc., etc. The specific details are different, but the basics are the same.
On to said specific details. Look, folks – Killraven is kickass. I said it in TTCMTWNH(BS), and I’m saying it again here. He’s a post-apocalyptic freedom fighter with psychic powers who goes up against alien war machines armed only with a sword and gun – and wins. Tell me that’s not awesome, and I won’t believe you. (And while I know there are going to be some people rolling their eyes at his… unusual mode of dress, I’m not one of them. He was a gladiator in an arena – that’s how they look. Deal with it, OK?)
Also, while the specific details of Killraven’s story are a little darker than some, they have definite precedents on TV. Post-apocalyptic warriors making their way through the ruins of humanity? Thundarr the Barbarian, folks, among others. Assorted group of rebels fighting against evil overlords? Where do I even start – that’s like every other cartoon from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. You might have to tone down the series a little bit, but not much – this is tried and true territory here.
Basically, Killraven is a cult favorite for a reason, and he’d be awesome on the small screen. Or, heck, the large screen – any screen. Adapt Killraven, dammit!
What it is: In another dimension, close to yet apart from Earth, there exists the planet Meta, home of an advanced civilization. The Metans have long been aware of their sister planet, and have been studying it for some time, unbeknownst to us.
One such studier is Rac Shade, top agent of the Metan secret service. Framed for treason by the sinister Sude, leader of the Metan underworld, Shade fled to Earth, followed by law enforcement and criminal alike – one of the former being Mellu Loron, a fellow agent and his own fiancée.
Vowing to bring the true perpetrator to justice, Shade set out to clear his name by any means necessary. Luckily, he does have one major advantage over his enemies – the M-Vest, a powerful personalized force-field generator that protects him from harm, and warps people’s perceptions of him into grotesque and fantastical forms, giving him a psychological edge. On the run from the law and battling the agents of Sude, he is Shade – the Changing Man!
Why it’s cool: Oh Steve Ditko, you crazy, crazy man.
Nowadays, most people think of his long-running Vertigo series when they think of Rac Shade, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. (Animated Vertigo would be a strange and unsettling thing.) As with Black Orchid, I’m talkin’ about the accept-no-substitutes Silver Age original here, since from all I’ve gathered of it, that one was much more interesting.
StCM was uncollected up until just recently, so I haven’t read much of it, but others have described it as the weirdest thing Steve Ditko ever created, and going by what little I have read, I have no reason to doubt that statement. It was Ditko running on pure, unfiltered Ditko, churning out page after page of bizarreness the way only he could do it. From Shade himself with his distorted monster-image projected around him, to his mechanized arch-enemy Sude, a gigantic grimacing globe-face with arms and great big teeth, each character has a unique look and feel that genuinely are unique; you’re unlikely to see the likes of them anywhere else. Visually the series was astounding, and although the actual writing was apparently a tad on the pedestrian side (Ditko did the series ‘Marvel style’, handing over the actual scripting to someone else), it still holds together very well, from what I’ve heard.
And conceptually speaking, this is some great stuff that would make for a truly nifty cartoon. The title character is something like an other-dimensional Jason Bourne armed with a personal booga-booga generator, and what about that doesn’t sound awesome? Then you’ve got the fact that he’s being hunted down by the love of his life, the web of intrigue and double-dealing that led to his being framed in the first place, and, of course, the fact that Sude’s vendetta against him gives him an endless array of bizarre and fantastical villains to battle. It’s a terrific framework for an ongoing series – intriguing hooks, colorful and unique visuals, lots of action, a fast-paced man-on-the-run sort of plot – what’s not to like?
Nothing, that’s what. And we need more Ditko-flavored weirdness in our televisual entertainment. Green-light this puppy!
What it is: There came a time when Batman, disillusioned with the policies of the Justice League, decided to break apart from them and form his own team, a more hands-on group that would tackle the smaller threats before they grew into something larger. The team has changed members a number of times over the years, but with or without the Dark Knight, they remain the team for the little man, working outside the establishment – the Outsiders!
Why it’s cool: Out of all the entries on this list, this one is probably the biggest no-brainer. I mean, consider the following – A: the Outsiders have already appeared on Batman: The Brave and the Bold as a team, and as individuals on JLU, Young Justice, and the upcoming Beware the Batman. DC has clearly already proven to their satisfaction that the general public likes these characters enough to feature ‘em on TV. So why on Earth haven’t they given them their own show already?
Now, you will note that I gave the team their original appellation of ‘Batman and the Outsiders’ instead of simply ‘the Outsiders’. This is not because I think the team can’t stand on their own; they can and have. But let’s face it, everything Batman touches turns to gold, so far as DC is concerned, and if they put his name in the title it’s a fair guarantee that the show will get good ratings. He doesn’t have to be in every episode or anything – I’d use him as a ‘mission coordinator’ type, generally communicating with the team from the Batcave via TV screen – Bat-Skype, I guess you’d call it these days – and showing up only rarely when the team needs their leader in the field.
So far as the team roster goes, I’m not terribly particular. There is a ‘classic’ Outsiders team, but there have been other, more recent incarnations that have also gained a fan-following. What I’d do is come up with a core cast that includes a combination of both, then have a rotating roster of ‘guest’ heroes to fill in on individual missions. That would provide a nice mix, and keep things interesting.
Basically, this is a team whose time has come. I’m just surprised they’re not already being broadcast.
What it is: Jimmy Olsen is a cub reporter at the Daily Planet, a friend of Clark Kent and a pal of Superman – but he’s a lot more than that. He also has wacky adventures! Whether he’s going back in time, getting married to an ape, being shanghaied to Bizarro World, battling the curse of the werewolf or turning into the monstrous Giant Turtle Boy, it’s a wonder that the guy has time to do any reporting – but he manages it somehow, ‘cause he’s Jimmy Olsen!
Why it’s cool: Dude.
Did you not read the above? And still you ask me this?
All right, all right. Jimmy Olsen is one of those characters who can be either annoying or awesome, but when he’s awesome, he’s really awesome. He generally works best as a sort of blank state which the reader can project themselves onto, but the guy definitely does have a distinct personality of his own. He’s brash but plucky, young yet experienced, eternally downtrodden by his superiors and yet always coming out on top – except when he doesn’t, in which case it’s Oh That Wacky Jimmy.
Seriously, this would be a perfect case of cross-marketing potential. Everyone knows at least tangentially who Jimmy is, ‘cause of Superman, which means all you’d have to do is market it as a Superman-spinoff and have him show up now and then, and the rest is pure light-hearted, all-ages adventure. Mind you, there was some fairly objectionable stuff that happened in some of those old stories – look up ‘Jimmy Olsen, Roughneck’ sometime and tell me your jaw didn’t drop just a little bit – so you’d have to be careful to cut that sort of thing out; but otherwise, good grief, what more needs to be said? Werewolves and aliens and superheroes and weird transformations! Our boy Jimmy, everybody!
What it is: Having saved the life of a Native American chief while crossing the wilds of Kentucky, pioneer Thomas Hawk was accepted into the chief’s grateful tribe for a time, and learned their ways. Using this knowledge, he became one of the most skilled frontiersmen on the continent, and when the Revolutionary War broke out he was personally chosen by George Washington as the leader of a motley group of covert fighters – commandoes, we would call them today, but they called themselves merely ‘the Rangers’. With the Rangers at his back and his young ward Dan Hunter by his side, great tales would be told of him in the centuries that followed – tales of the man called Tomahawk!
Why it’s cool: Once again, I must elucidate, and explain that I have something specific in mind here. Bear with me, and all will be revealed.
Now, going by the above explanation of Mr. Hawk’s backstory, you might think that would do pretty well on its own. I mean, a Revolutionary War-era Davy Crockett kinda guy, going around fighting the Redcoats and doing frontier woodsman sort of stuff – that’s pretty cool, and not something we’ve seen much of on TV in recent years. And were that all it was, yeah, it’d be fine. But that’s not all, my friends; oh goodness gracious, no.
You see, Tomahawk was primarily a Silver Age character, and the Silver Age, as everyone knows, was brim-full of craziness, DC Comics especially. They would put anything on their covers to make them sell, the more out there, the better. Tomahawk was no exception – and as a result, things got wild.
Into the brew was added all sorts of insane ‘60’s pop-sci-fi nonsense, until what started out as a basic rebels-VS-Redcoats scenario quickly turned into a far richer and stranger concoction. With the forces of pick-up-this-comic-you-darn-kids on their side, anything could happen to Tomahawk and his men. They went up against alien invaders, mad scientists, ghosts, monsters, dinosaurs, fantastic war machines, you name it – one story had them fighting alongside a giant purple gorilla. Also added to the mix was proto-superhero Miss Liberty, a war-nurse who donned patriotic garb and a mask to do her part against the enemy.
All this sort of stuff was strange enough when your average super-joe was involved in it, but in a Revolutionary War comic? It was glorious! Talk about your alternate histories! Yes, of course it was all wildly anachronistic and inaccurate, but who cares?
If someone made an animated series out of this thing, it would be one of the most colorful, action-packed, bizarre pop-art styled narratives around. You could even mix in a helping of good old-fashioned ‘regular’ frontier-type stuff just to placate the purists, and that would be cool, too. All of it would be cool! Me for the good old days, when you could battle Redcoats and men from Mars all at the same time! Whoopee! Get to it, cartoon-makers!